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Noble: An idea for bathroom checkers
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Some states are known for things they produce in abundance. Idaho has potatoes, Maine has lobsters and South Carolina seems to have more than our fair share of politicians with loopy, if not downright embarrassing, ideas.

This is not really new for the Palmetto State as we have a long history of such loopy ideas -- secession, printing our own currency, denying children an education based on their skin color, etc. -- and these are the things proposed in just the last few years.

And now we are at it again.

Let me begin with a full disclosure. Best I know, I’ve never met State Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg. Once or twice when I was visiting the Statehouse and sat in the Senate Gallery, I saw him walking around on the floor talking with folks. He looked like a perfectly nice guy. I looked him up and he’s in the transportation business, has a wife and two daughters, on several boards and a member of Roebuck Baptist Church.

I’m sure he is an honorable man who wants to do what is best for South Carolina, loves his family and folks at his church will tell you he is a good Christian. Good for him on all counts.

And, he’s also the sponsor of the latest loopy idea which is a hot topic in virtually every newspaper and on every cable TV channel. Yes, it’s the “bathroom bill” -- legislation which says when it comes to certain gay and transgender people, someone else (presumably a law enforcement person) needs to decide who goes into which bathroom.

Some variation of this legislation was first passed in North Carolina, it spread to Georgina and then South Carolina, and now it’s being pushed by legislators in Tennessee, Kansas and Minnesota as well.

A lead editorial in The New York Times this week summarizes the legislation this way: “The lunacy at the heart of this demand to police every public bathroom was captured by Leon Lott, the sheriff of Richland County in South Carolina, who told state lawmakers last week that the law would be unenforceable because his officers could not be in the business of inspecting people’s genitals.” Lott then added, “In the 41 years I’ve been in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom.”

So there you have it.

But maybe Sen. Bright has a point. Just because it has never been a problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act now to prevent a problem from developing in the future. It could happen.

Maybe we should start this -- on a trial basis -- with the S.C. State Senate. I’m sure Sen. Bright would be willing to show some real leadership on this and would personally take responsibility to do “genital checks” in the Statehouse bathrooms.

Now, there are lots of restrooms in the Statehouse and it’s open for long hours so Sen. Bright is going to have to get some help. We could put him in charge of organizing (deputizing) enough folks to keep all the restrooms covered during the hours the Statehouse is open. Maybe he could get the co-sponsors of the bill (if he has any) to take a shift.

Once he gets all the men’s rooms covered, he’ll have to move on to the women’s restrooms. Now, he’s got a problem as there are only two women in the Senate and I don’t think either one of them will likely go along with this.

So now things will begin to really get tricky. Since Sen. Bright won’t be able to find enough genital checkers to handle things (no pun intended) then he’ll have to start closing restrooms as it really wouldn’t be safe to have a public restroom open and not have adequate checks.

Then the lines will start to form … and very long lines would soon follow with lots of people holding their legs together … well, you get the picture.

And what about training? We can’t have unqualified genital checkers looking in everyone’s underwear -- we need fully qualified, trained and approved checkers. (They should probably have their own badge as well.)

And all this is going to take some time and cost a lot of money. Sen. Bright will have to set up a special agency to handle all of this and that will take a while and the regulations will have to be developed -- and on and on it goes.

It looks like this is going to be more than one man, even someone as talented as Sen. Bright, can handle.

So, I’ve got an idea. While Sen. Bright is getting all this worked out, why don’t we let everyone decide for themselves which bathroom to use.

Last I checked, I’m pretty clear as to where I should go -- and I think most other folks are, too.

(Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and president of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley. His column is provided by the S.C. News Exchange. Contact noble at phil@philnoble.com.)